Monday, October 03, 2016

Into the Wild (by Jon Krakauer)

You may recall that one of my most frequently re-read books of all time is Into Thin Air. I don't know why I never had much of an interest in Into the Wild and then suddenly I did, but when I was looking for a new "gym book" (the books I read while exercising) I decided to give in to my Krakauer love and give it a shot.

Krakauer's writing is never less than great, but the story to me is less compelling than Into Thin Air. In fact, the best part of this memoir is Krakauer's own account of his ascent of the Devil's Thumb. He includes this to show why he empathizes so strongly with the somewhat foolhardy Chris McCandless, but it is by far the most compelling and exhilarating part of the book.

The problem is, there isn't much to McCandless's story. He meets some people on the road, hikes into the Alaska wilderness, finds a bus, moves in, kills some animals, eats some poison berries (or seeds, or mold, or potatoes -- this part has some controversy surrounding it) and doesn't make it out again.  It's more about whether you think McCandless was young, reckless, and noble, or young, reckless, and dumb. 

I felt for the kid, in the end -- Krakauer makes a good argument about the folly of youth in general and about what McCandless did manage to achieve -- but I was left not really getting why this one dumb adventure was worthy of a whole book. And McCandless came across as a somewhat stereotypically pretentious twentysomething. No shade: we've all been pretentous twentysomethings. But he's not exactly a figure to admire.

It did make me eager to read Eiger Dreams, however -- a book of essays about Krakauer's own experiences climbing. I don't know why I, voted Least Likely to Climb a Mountain by the award committee of me, am so fascinated by the climbing stories, but I am!

Oh, and halfway through this book I realized it counts as a biography for the Read Harder Challenge. Yay! A freebie!

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Blogger Joanne Godwin said...

Hey Mo, I've been reading your various blogs for years -- since your college and Starbucks days. Anyway, this is probably my first comment, to say that I too am obsessed with mountain climbing books and I too am the least likely person to ever climb a mountain. I also like real-life climbing movies and just watched a 2015 documentary called Meru available on Amazon instant video (free for Prime members). Check it out if you haven't seen it yet! Jon Krakauer is in it too. (Also, I completely agree about "Into the Wild.")

5:08 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Hey Joanne! That's so cool. So you've been reading since I was a pretentious twentysomething! Hahaha.

I have not seen Maru but I do have Amazon Prime so I will give it a try! Did you read Eiger Dreams? Should I go for it?

5:18 PM  
Blogger Joanne Godwin said...

Eiger Dreams -- of course, go for it! It has all the elements we love, ha-ha, plus it's by Krakauer to boot. Also I'd recommend anything by Ed Viesturs, but I imagine you've read him already. Also, about Meru -- one of the most fascinating things you learn is the backstory of Conrad Anker and his current family (I don't want to give anything away). So now on my book list are Conrad's book, "The Lost Explorer," and his wife's memoir, "Forget Me Not."

9:26 AM  
Blogger mo pie said...

I watched the Meru trailer and it looks great, thanks for the tip. I haven't actually read anything by Viesturs! I have a feeling I'm about to go down a mountaineering rabbit hole.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you like climbing books, you really ought to read Touching the Void. I saw the movie first, then read it, and I was enthralled. Though I have no intention of climbing anything higher than Kansas.

12:05 PM  

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